O's curb callers' access to club

Radio listeners can speak to team officials only on CBS affiliates

February 24, 2007|By Ray Frager | Ray Frager,Sun reporter

It's a staple of sports talk radio - a club official comes on the air, and fans get to call in and ask questions.

But, as WBAL (1090 AM) host Steve Davis has learned this week, it's not working that way with the Orioles since spring training has begun.

As Davis posted at the station's Web site yesterday, the club has instituted a policy prohibiting members of team management - such as vice president Jim Duquette or manager Sam Perlozzo - from taking callers' questions when they appear on his nightly talk show.

The Orioles say the policy is designed to enhance the programming for its radio rights-holder, CBS Radio. On flagship station WHFS (105.7 FM) and CBS' all-sports ESPN Radio 1300 (WJFK/1300 AM), no such prohibition would apply, the Orioles say.

"The club has always had its policy," said Greg Bader, Orioles director of communications.

Not so, said Jeff Beauchamp, vice president and station manager of WBAL, which was the Orioles' flagship for the previous 19 years.

"It's never been the case for the past 20 years," Beauchamp said.

Stan Charles, a regular sports talk host in Baltimore on five radio stations from 1981 to 2001 - with only four of those years on the Orioles flagship - said he never experienced such a restriction during his time on the air.

In fact, when Davis spoke about the issue on his program last night - after interviewing pitching coach Leo Mazzone but taking no calls - the host said the policy wasn't in place as recently as three weeks ago.

The club apparently isn't barring anyone from Davis' show, and Orioles players are permitted to interact with callers.

Still, Davis told The Sun yesterday from spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: "Orioles management - Sam Perlozzo, Jim Duquette, Leo Mazzone - have been told by Orioles brass that I can't take calls from fans. Basically, I think it stinks for the listeners. ... I can't for the life of me figure out why they would do that."

John Maroon, former Orioles public relations director, sounded puzzled by the policy, too.

"It goes against building relationships both with the media and the fans," said Maroon, who now runs his own public relations agency after working for the Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Major League Baseball and Washington Redskins for 14 years. " ... I've never heard of that practice."

Orioles management won't be any less accessible to fans, the club said.

"Orioles fans will have more opportunity than ever to interact directly with Orioles management in public appearances, on radio and other events," spokesman Bader said.

In his posting at WBAL's Web site, Davis said listeners were calling in, attempting to ask questions when Duquette and Perlozzo were guests this week.

"After nine straight losing seasons, the fans deserve to have their questions and concerns addressed, and not to be stonewalled by O's brass," Davis wrote.

Asked whether the team's policy should be viewed as an attempt to control the message getting out to the public, Bader said: "I don't think so at all. [Orioles players and management] are more than free to speak their mind."

Davis would like for everybody speaking his mind to include club management answering questions from WBAL listeners.

"If a difficult question comes up, they're the best ones to be in a position to answer," Davis said.

However, "we're no longer the flagship, and they change the rules."

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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